Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024 – Welcoming Australia submission

In late March 2024, the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill was rushed through the House of Representatives with false urgency. The Bill significantly expands the powers of the Minister with no adequate safeguards.

The Senate Inquiry launched a short government inquiry into the Bill, and will report its findings on 7 May. Welcoming Australia made a short submission, shared below, particularly recognising the future implications of implementing such a bill, as well as its immediate consequences. The Welcoming Australia Submission formally endorsed the significant submission from the Australian Iranian Community Alliance.

Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024 – Welcoming Australia 12.04.2024

We welcome the opportunity to provide a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024 (the Bill).

About Welcoming Australia

Welcoming Australia is a national not-for-profit organisation committed to cultivating a culture of welcome and advancing an Australia where people of all backgrounds have equal opportunity to belong, contribute and thrive. Welcoming Australia operates through several networks, including Welcoming Cities, Welcoming Clubs, Welcoming Universities, and Welcoming Workplaces.

Main Statement

Welcoming Australia opposes the proposed Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024 in its entirety. This bill not only poses significant risks to communities residing in Australia, as it threatens to criminalise refugees, facilitate the separation of families, and grant extensive powers to the Minister without adequate safeguards, but it also goes against Australian values and fails to align with Australia’s international obligations.

Key reflections

Criminalisation of Refugees

The proposed Bill introduces troubling measures regarding the criminalisation of refugees. Under this legislation, individuals facing deportation who refuse to cooperate may face criminal charges and jail sentences. Moreover, it grants the Minister the authority to overturn a person’s protection finding, thereby paving the way for their deportation. The Bill explicitly states that fear of persecution in one’s home country does not constitute a valid excuse for non- compliance with the Minister’s directives regarding deportation procedures. This provision is deeply concerning as it disregards fundamental principles of human rights and poses a significant risk to the safety and well-being of individuals within the Australian community.

Community Implications

The Minister’s power to overturn an individual’s protection findings would lead to feelings of distress and insecurity within the Australian community. Additionally, the bill’s potential to separatefamiliesoverlooksthewell-beingofchildrenandotherfamilymembers.Theseaspects will reduce social cohesion and trust in public institutions within Australian society.

International Implications

The Bill directly contradicts Australia’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention by forcibly returning individuals to countries where they face harm or persecution. By establishing the concept of a ‘removal concern country’ and restricting entry from specific nations, the Bill risks undermining Australia’s diplomatic relations. Such labelling not only stigmatises entire nations but also has the potential to strain international partnerships and alliances. This approach not only violates humanitarian principles but also undermines Australia’s image in the global community.

Removal Concern Country

The proposal to designate certain countries as ‘removal concern countries’ contradicts prevailing public sentiment in Australia. According to findings from the recent Scanlon Foundation Report ‘Mapping Social Cohesion,’ a significant 86 percent of respondents oppose the idea of rejecting individuals from immigrating to Australia solely based on their race or ethnicity. These statistics, which have shown a consistent upward trend since 2018, underscore a societal shift towards greater inclusivity and rejection of discriminatory practices within Australian society.

The designation of a ‘removal concern country’ and the subsequent application of collective punishment to all potential applicants, without clear criteria for defining national interest, lacks a proper foundation. Granting such significant power, which rests in the hands of a single individual requiring only consultation with the Prime Minister and the Minister administering the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Act 1967, poses serious risks. If this power were to fall into the wrong hands, it could lead to detrimental consequences. Should the proposed amendment be enacted, it is imperative to ensure that the authority to designate a ‘removal concern country’ does not rest solely with an individual, but rather with a transparent process governed by either the judiciary or parliament oversight.

The designation of a ‘removal concern country’ also lacks crucial provisions regarding its duration and oversight. There is no specified timeframe for how long such a designation would remain in effect, leaving it open-ended and potentially indefinite. There is also no provision for a review period to assess the necessity or appropriateness of maintaining the designation over time.

Additionally, it is essential to incorporate a provision outlining the mechanism for challenging and revoking the decision regarding the designation of a ‘country of removal’ and specifying who holds the authority to initiate such challenges.

Welcoming Australia shows its endorsement to Australian Iranian Community Alliance Submission.

Future Implications

The proposed bill places a significant trust and responsibility on the incumbent minister overseeing this department and por^olio. The risks of such powers being abused or misused, overtly or unconsciously, are considerable. The migraKon amendment poses a substanKal risk to Australia’s long-term commitment to mulKculturalism, social cohesion, and advancing communiKes where people of all backgrounds can belong, contribute, and thrive.

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